ISO 12616 – Translation-oriented terminography

The quality of a translation can be measured partly in terms of linguistic elements, such as style and grammar, and partly in terms of the accurate use of the terminology involved.

Translators have always had a need to record terminological information for later use. Translators dealing with specialized texts face an increasing need to record and retrieve terminological information, as it saves time and allows them to work more efficiently. Whether we work alone or in a team, translation-oriented terminology work is the key to keeping track of our expertise, making it possible for us to reuse our knowledge and to share it with others.

The decision to implement a system for recording and retrieving terminological information requires a good deal of forethought. First, translators or LSPs must know how to store terminological information and what kind of terminological information they wish to store. Once this decision has been made, they have to find and utilize an appropriate computer tool.

ISO 12616 was published in 2002 and it was last reviewed and confirmed in 2015.

The International Standard provides the necessary elements for quality control of terminological information in translations. Experience has shown that terminography (i.e. part of terminology work concerned with the recording and presentation of terminological data) facilitates translation by enabling translators

 to record and systematize terminology, 

 to use terminology consistently over time, and 

 to deal more efficiently with multiple languages. 

By recording terminological information systematically, translators can enhance their performance, improve text quality and increase productivity. The terminological information contained in a text shall be identified according to pre-established criteria. This information shall then be investigated and documented using reliable, authoritative sources wherever possible. In cases where such sources are not available, the translator should cooperate with subject specialists to find ways of translating terminological information adequately.

In recent years corpus linguistics has seen tremendous success in translation-related fields. The TAUS Data Association has successfully encouraged competitors to share translation memory data with each other in an attempt to improve translation memory results.

A termbase is a computer database consisting primarily of information about domain-specific concepts and the terms that designate them. Specialised translation deals with domains of knowledge, and every domain is organised through concepts that are linked to objects or ideas relevant to that domain. Termbases may be monolingual, bilingual, or multilingual

Glossaries and termbases share certain similarities but a glossary may or may not be equivalent to a termbase. A glossary may be equivalent to a termbase or it may have more in common with general-language lexicographical resources, such as bilingual dictionaries. 

The structure of the terminological entry shall ensure that:

  • All terminological information, including changes in meaning, context-dependent use, etc, can be recorded adequately, and
  • All information can be easily processed and retrieved.2

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